Vivienne Westwood Red Label F?W 2016
Vivienne Westwood Red Label F?W 2016

I have been eagerly anticipating Dame Vivienne Westwood’s next collection for a couple of months. The past couple of years have been challenging as she has fought back cancer while trying to keep reign on both her red and gold collections. We’ve seen moments when she’s stumbled on the runway and had to rely on either models or her son for support. However, those difficulties seem to be behind her. More than once over the past few months, we’ve seen video of Dame Westwood protesting some for some environmental cause, her voice once again strong, and her determination as passionate as ever. Given that it is an election year in the US, I find myself wondering what might happen if Dame Westwood and Senator Bernie Sanders ever got together on any kind of campaign. The results would likely be interesting.

What was surprising, however, is that the first several looks coming down Dame Westwood’s runway this afternoon were almost, dare I say it, normal. What we expect from either Westwood label is the outlandish, the dramatic, and the theatrical. Yes, there is some of that Westwood eccentricity in this collection, but it is quite shockingly in the minority. Instead, what we get are suits that might have a strange gather or two, but are otherwise rather standard in their masculine tailoring. We have dresses whose silhouettes are gently feminine, jackets that actually fit the models wearing them, and top and bottom patterns that either match or compliment each other quite well. Yes, I double-checked,  this really was Vivienne Westwood. So, where’s the hook?

Before the show, Dame Westwood took a moment to expound upon her designer notes and emphasized that this collection, which she’s labeled “Intellectuals Unite,” is all about having a green economy, one where the fabrics and methods used in making clothes are sustainable, where workers are treated as humans rather than slaves, and where fashion is neither over consumed nor over consuming. As a result, we see a lot of recycled and re-purposed fabrics brought together with amazing tailoring and a beautiful sense of style.

Yes, there are plenty of loud colors and dynamic patchwork in the mix. There are times when the layering becomes rather voluminous, but then Dame Westwood counters that bulk with a dress that is more sleek, fitted, and sexy. Her fabric pairings have been given careful consideration and even the dresses with printed shorts underneath visible through the leg slit are attractive without being shocking. Yes, the designer’s eclectic spirit is visible, but she doesn’t seem to feel the need to use shock tactics to make her point.

When Dame Westwood took the runway herself at the end of the show, she did so in a dress made of brown burlap. She cares less about whether we like her clothes and more about whether she’s made her philosophical point on the environment. She’s also dedicated to making sure the fashion industry doesn’t rape the planet in search for the next “it” fabric or design. Vivienne Westwood wants to make sure you hear what she’s saying and this collection went a long way toward getting everyone’s attention.

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